Shimon Peres -Various

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Shimon Peres died at age 93 this week. He was one of the founding fathers of the Israel state and held virtually every key government post at one time or another, President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister and the list goes on. There are links to two articles below, one positive from the Globe and Mail, and one negative written by Robert Fisk. They are not included in an effort to produce balance. More so, they are included to provide a glimpse into the man’s complex and at times contradictory career. He has been one of Israel’s most consistent advocates for a political solution to Israel’s conflict with the Arabs and the Palestinians. He is also widely praised for his role in the 1990s peace process and he was critical of the violence that followed its failure. However, his views were ‘hawkish’ when he was young and he supported the settlement project in the 1970s. He also ordered the 1996 invasion of Southern Lebanon (Operation Grapes of Wrath) and presided over the shelling of civilians in the UN compound of Qana. Observers tend to focus on on dimension of his career or the other, but both sides were integral to who he was.

Shimon Peres, guiding hand behind Israel-PLO peace pact, dies at 93

“…the middling politician and accidental prime minister was a true champion in another arena that shaped the history of modern Israel. Mr. Peres was the guiding hand behind the historic peace agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1993. And while that agreement so far has failed to lead to an independent Palestinian state and a peace treaty between it and Israel, the Oslo Accords, as it is known, remains the starting point for any two-state solution to this long-standing conflict.”

“As early as 1980, his “Gaza first” solution proposed returning the Gaza Strip to Arab control. And he had conceived a grand outline that would see the Middle East remodelled on the European Community, complete with a common market.

He also recognized that in the early 1990s, following the Gulf War, there was a real opening. In his book The New Middle East, he wrote: “We had reached one of those rare critical junctures that enable discerning statesmen to make a quantum leap in their thinking – and perhaps turn the tide of history.”…”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/former-israeli-pm-shimon-peres-dies-at-93/article32097484/

 

Shimon Peres was no peacemaker. I’ll never forget the sight of pouring blood and burning bodies at Qana

“When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smouldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/shimon-peres-dies-israel-qana-massacre-never-forget-no-peacemaker-robert-fisk-a7334656.html

The Rabin assassination, 20 years later -Various Sources

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The assignation of Yitzhak Rabin was 20 years ago today (Nov 4th, 1995). Some taking stock is in order:

“Amir wanted to stop Israel ceding land in the occupied West Bank to Palestinian control; he believed the land was a gift from God to the Jewish people that could never be traded away. He achieved his objectives.”

Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace? -BBC

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34712057

This New York Times article argues that Israeli politics have now moved toward a pragmatic center. What the author considers a pragmatic center, however, looks to me like a shift to the right, or at least a profound sense of resignation:

“In the 1990s there was “a clash between two big ideologies,” said Micah Goodman, an Israeli-American Jewish philosopher and the director of a pluralistic Israeli academy for young adults in the West Bank. The right believed that settling the biblical heartland of the West Bank would hasten salvation and bring on the Messianic era. The left believed that a withdrawal from all the territories conquered in the 1967 war would bring peace and allow Israel to finally become part of the family of nations, which Mr. Goodman describes as another “almost Messianic” idea.

“Over the last 20 years, Israelis stopped believing in both ideas,” he said. “The new left does not speak of peace, but of occupation. The new right does not speak of salvation, but of security.”

20 Years After Rabin, Israeli Politics Have Shifted -NYTimes

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/middleeast/20-years-after-rabin-israeli-politics-have-shifted.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=world/middleeast&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Middle%20East&pgtype=article

Why Palestine Has No Chance at the International Criminal Court -The Daily Beast

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An interesting look at the Palestinian Authority and the International Criminal Court. Not only does it point out the limitations of the Palestinian Authority’s position if it tries to have Israel prosecuted for war crimes relating to the 2014 Gaza war. It also has some interesting things to say about how the ICC works in general and its limited ability to confront powerful states.

Nevertheless, the ICC does provide the PA with some political leverage:
“Palestine’s membership in the ICC likely has political motivations designed to extract concessions from Israel. If the threat of the ICC action spurs Israeli investigations of its own alleged misconduct, that alone could be a success from the Palestinian perspective. If a similar threat slows settlement activity or deters future Israeli military operations, these too could be successes.

Finally, Palestinian membership may be part of a domestic political chess game between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank. Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, made the ICC referral, but Hamas was primarily responsible for the alleged Palestinian war crimes. Although Fatah would be loathe to admit it publicly, an ICC investigation into the Palestinian situation could be an effort by Fatah to strengthen its position against Hamas.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/17/why-palestine-has-no-chance-at-the-international-criminal-court.html

The Iran Nuclear Deal: World Reaction -various

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Reaction to the deal has been fairly predictable:

1. The Canadian government is deeply skeptical, and Canadian sanctions will remain in place.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/iran-nuclear-deal-gets-deeply-skeptical-response-from-canada-1.2438467

2. The Persian Gulf States have also been skeptical, particularly the Saudis. Saudi press statements offered half-hearted support:
“King Salman told Mr. Obama that he “hopes reaching a final and binding agreement would lead to improving security and stability in the region and the world,” the Saudi state news agency said.”
but,
“Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and political commentator, said the Saudis would be undeterred by any potential Western softening toward Tehran. The Kingdom “is still now going to handle Iran’s expansionism. It’s not going to leave that in the hands of the Americans.”
http://www.wsj.com/articles/arab-reaction-to-iran-nuclear-agreement-reflects-regions-sharp-divide-1428021323

3. In Israel Prime Minister Netenyahu was bluntly critical, but interestingly, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, formerly the head of military intelligence, had a more nuanced view:
“If we aspire to an ideal world and dream of having all of Israel’s justified demands fulfilled, then of course the agreement does not deliver. It grants Iran legitimacy as a nuclear threshold state and potential to eventually achieve nuclearization. It leaves Iran more or less one year away from a nuclear weapon, and Israel will clearly not like all of this.

“But there’s another way to look at it that examines the current situation and the alternatives. In this other view, considering that Iran now has 19,000 centrifuges, the agreement provides quite a good package. One has to think what might have happened if, as aspired to by Netanyahu and Steinitz, negotiations had collapsed. Had that happened, Iran could have decided on a breakout, ignored the international community, refused to respond to questions about its arsenal, continued to quickly enrich and put together a bomb before anyone could have had time to react. And therefore, with this in mind, it’s not a bad agreement.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/04/israel-iran-nuclear-agreement-netanyahu-obama-bad-deal.html##ixzz3WHlTmZV8

4. According to the Republicans: “Obama’s dangerous deal with Iran rewards an enemy, undermines our allies and threatens our safety.” And they are demanding congress be allowed to review it.
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/03/republicans-iran-nuclear-deal

The question now is what can they do to derail it? They have some options:

“Members of Congress can hold hearings, calling witnesses to testify about the dangers of the agreement and in this way “embarrass the administration,” he said. Witnesses could testify about the dangers of an agreement, for example, and about flaws in the administration strategy.

Members of Congress could refuse to appropriate funds necessary for an agreement with Iran to go into effect. This would delay – and perhaps derail – the agreement. There are other options, too.

On 14 April members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are planning to vote on Senator Bob Corker’s bipartisan Iran nuclear agreement review act, as it’s known. This would give members of Congress 60 days after a nuclear deal is reached to decide if they want to waive sanctions against Iran.

…. members of Congress could decide to up the ante and impose “pretty draconian new sanctions”, NYU School of Law’s Zachary Goldman said. It would be hard, since they’d need the support of two-thirds of both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives to over-ride a presidential veto. Both houses are Republican-controlled but they would need Democrat votes.”

Considering there are still important negotiations required before the deal is completely done, this has the potential to undermine or at least complicate the deal.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32125391

Just as worrying, Republican pressure will force Obama to go top great lengths to justify the deal to congress. As he does so, he will have to characterize the deal as an American win and Iranian loss. This will make it harder for Rouhani to sell the deal in Tehran. In fact, the Iranian press is already claiming that Obama is lying about the nature of the deal:

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-accuses-u-s-of-lying-about-new-nuke-agreement/

Israeli Mossad Goes Rogue, Warns U.S. on Iran Sanctions -Bloomberg.com

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The closer we get to an American-Iranian nuclear deal, the nastier the domestic fight has become in the US. House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an outspoken critique of the negotiations and no friend of Barak Obama to address congress. Now Obama’s supporters are sighting Israeli intelligence officials contradicting Netanyahu. Very messy…

“Netanyahu to address the threat posed by radical Islam and Iran. Netanyahu is expected to deliver full-throated support for sanctions. The administration is upset that Netanyahu accepted Boehner’s invitation without notifying them, the latest indication of the poor relationship between the Israeli government and the White House.

Two senior U.S. officials tell us that the Mossad has also shared its view with the administration that if legislation that imposed a trigger leading to future sanctions on Iran was signed into law, it would cause the talks to collapse.

The Israeli view shared with Corker and other senators also mirrors the assessment from the U.S. intelligence community. “We’ve had a standing assessment on this,” one senior administration official told us. “We haven’t run the new Kirk-Menendez bill through the process, but the point is that any bill that triggers sanctions would collapse the talks. That’s what the assessment is.” Another intelligence official said that the Israelis had come to the same conclusion.”

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-01-22/netanyahu-mossad-split-divides-u-s-congress-on-iran-sanctions

The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here -The Atlantic

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“The Obama administration’s anger is “red-hot” over Israel’s settlement policies, and the Netanyahu government openly expresses contempt for Obama’s understanding of the Middle East. Profound changes in the relationship may be coming.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/the-crisis-in-us-israel-relations-is-officially-here/382031/

People have been have been talking about the “crisis in American-Israeli” relations since Obama’s election, and it usually has not amounted to much. This time however, “a senior Obama administration official” is quoted as using a number of derogatory terms to insult Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confession: I had to look up the term “Aspergery”.
Of course, like most diplomatic tiffs, this may get swept under the rug pretty quickly. The White House is already disputing they are the source of the insults (see: White House Distances Itself from Netanyahu ‘Chickenshit’ Comment, http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/10/29/white_house_distances_itself_from_netanyahu_chickenshit_comment). If, as the Atlantic article suggests, the Obama administration tables “a public, full lay-down of the administration’s vision for a two-state solution, including maps delineating Israel’s borders” based on the 1967 borders, then that will be a real crisis.